Yesterday, I had the pleasure of talking with an old friend who has been a partner in ministry and a spiritual directee. He lives in another state, but from time to time we get to check in with each other. He is the real deal in terms of being a Jesus follower, a man who has given his life to him and his Kingdom interests. I have always known my friend to be fierce about Christian spirituality, maturity and mission.
A few years ago God began to unsettle him. He was deeply involved in leading a local church and serving the city in which it's located. The unsettling started with a persistent desire to be more authentic and connected to the Spirit in his ministry. As long as I have known him, he has wanted more of Jesus. He was struggling with the endless minutiae of running an organization and trying to turn it toward deeper Kingdom relevance. He was game for the struggle, but sensed God wanted to take him into new territory as a disciple. He wanted to be more and more out amongst the people who did not have much idea of Jesus, but needed to.
The long and the short of it is God called him out of where of he was. After a time of wrestling and discerning, he left his role with no clear roadmap of how God was going to fill in the picture for him, other than he needed to move away. So he did.
Since he left, he has been ushered deeper into life with the Spirit and life as a missionary to people who need to hear of Jesus. He is tent-making and spending time building relationships with folks. He also influences the believers around him to go deeper into life with Jesus. He is keeping his options open for where God will direct him next. He is more connected to the Spirit than I have ever known him to be.
After our conversation, I got to thinking about when God calls people out of the familiar. He did it with Abraham, Moses, Gideon, David, Nicodemus, Paul and Peter. He's done it with people from every corner of the world throughout the centuries. He did it with me and everyone on the imagine/Northampton team. He is doing it with people now gathering around imagine/Northampton. God calls people out.
Here are a few things I have noticed about when God calls us out:
1. He tends to create a restlessness in you, a "holy discontent," if you will, a frequent whisper of a new call, a nagging desire for something different, more or sometimes less. While it may not be a clear snapshot of anything concrete, the sense won't do way; something has to change.
2. Sometimes the familiar just seems to lose its sparkle. As people say today, they are "just not feelin' it," anymore. Other times, the scent of change is unmistakable, but unwelcome. Things are humming along nicely in your life, but something is up and it won't go away. Grrrr. Or, the longing for change is welcomed and eagerly cultivated when the inkling of change surfaces. How it happens wikk most likely be different for each person, but the call to change is in the air.
3. It seems the final destination - if there is one at all - has no discernible shape, at first. You just "know" something is percolating and your life must shift because of it. God is saying "pack your bags (literally or figuratively) and go," but he is not forwarding you an itinerary. He just wants you to go. The journey itself seems the reason for going at all.
4. If you respond to the new call, you will be taken deeper into relationship with God, and the opportunity to have a redemptive impact or make a difference becomes more substantial. The calling requires greater faith, trust, courage and freedom to respond to his promptings, but your world expands markedly.
5. When God calls you out, you become more who you are intended to be if you follow and trust him. Calling out is a maturing, refining, "aging" process. You get closer to your own person. The change will change you.
6. When God calls you out other people may or may not affirm it. They may be bewildered by it or threatened. They may be unbelievably supportive saying things like, "I wonder why it took you so long to see this," or "Man, you are made for what you are going to do!" Not everyone will get it or care. Some will be stunningly supportive.
7. When God calls you out, you may never see the ultimate reason why. You may even feel the call ended in failure or seemed, in the final tally, "much ado about very little." No matter. God calls you out for reasons envisioned before the founding of the world; your works were "created in advance for you to do." The point is you followed the Spirit's promptings or your "holy discontent." It is in obeying that the possibility of living a real life is found: life to the full, life well-lived and headed for a "Well done, good and faithful servant," from the mouth of God at the end of your days.
So I thought it might be helpful to ask you these questions?
- Has God been whispering it is time to leave your Ur, or your Egypt and head for parts unknown? Are you listening for that?
- Are you sleepwalking through most of your life content to be secure, predictable and happy?
- Are you restless with God and don't know why? Are persistent thoughts like "What am I doing here?" or "Is this all there is for me?" showing up?
- Have you felt discontent, but are too afraid to act on it? Have you ignored the Spirit's promptings because they feel too scary or impossible? Have you let the dream God gave you die?
- Do you have your own story to tell about being called out? Have you ever told anyone? Why not?
May the Holy Spirit unsettle you as much as he needs to fulfill the Father's Kingdom initiatives in and through you.